Perspectives on the Past: Theoretical Biases in Mediterranean Hunter-Gatherer Research

Perspectives on the Past: Theoretical Biases in Mediterranean Hunter-Gatherer Research

Perspectives on the Past: Theoretical Biases in Mediterranean Hunter-Gatherer Research

Perspectives on the Past: Theoretical Biases in Mediterranean Hunter-Gatherer Research

Synopsis

Explores how knowledge of the past is largely determined by the social and intellectual milieux in which archaeologists have received their training. Contributors discuss their own biases and the effects these biases have had on their research into hunter-gatherer activities in the Mediterranean.

Excerpt

This is a book about what archaeologists of a certain kind think they do, rather than about what other archaeologists (or philosophers of science) think they should be doing. Except in the broad sense of a shared area of interest, it is not a book of "facts" or "discoveries." It originated in a symposium on "Paradigmatic Biases in Levantine Hunter- Gatherer Research" held at the Phoenix meetings of the Society for American Archaeology in April 1988, and consists of first-person accounts by workers active in field research on various aspects of Pleistocene and early Holocene hunter-gatherer adaptations in the Mediterranean Basin. These individuals play a large role in creating what we think we know about prehistoric hunter-gatherers in this important area of Old World research and, for that reason, perhaps deserve a hearing. Since a number of distinct, but overlapping research traditions are represented here, each with it own sets of biases, construals of the research endeavor vary from one writer to the next. Some modal tendencies in this variation emerge, however, and are identified in the Introduction and the Epilogue. Construals of archaeology range from a straightforward extension of history, projected back into the preliterate past, to the anthropological paradigm that governs most American work. I hope that readers will find these diverse accounts to be as interesting for their different constructions of the past as they are for their similarities, for it should be evident that, while they must postulate its existence, archaeologists do not "discover" a past that is "out there" to be perceived and apprehended by any informed observer. Rather, they create a past out of their preconceptions and biases about what the world of archaeological data is really like. This book aims to give a reader some insight into that process--to show him or her what the world of archaeology is really like, as seen through the eyes of some of its practitioners. Archaeology as a process of construction and test-

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